Wildlife Strikes – A Safety Risk to All
A wildlife strike occurs when a moving aircraft collides with a bird or other wildlife. A strike can result in damages to aircraft, loss of engine power, flight delays and can put passenger safety at risk. Experts estimate that the annual cost attributed to damages from wildlife strikes in North America exceeds $500 million. One such significant incident is the 2009 wildlife strike that resulted in the aircraft losing power in both engines and landing in the Hudson River in New York, USA.
Land Use Around YWG
Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) is located in the northwest portion of Winnipeg, Manitoba and operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The airport is surrounded by residential, recreational, commercial and industrial areas. Agricultural lands are located to the north and northwest of airport property.
Transport Canada established land use guidelines for areas near and around YWG to help lower the probability of a wildlife strike. Incompatible land use around airports falls into two zones:
The 8 km Hazard Zone that includes extremely hazardous uses like:
- Food-waste landfill sites;
- Garbage dumps; and
- Certain agricultural activities that may either attract birds or adversely affect aircraft flight visibility.
The 3.2 km Hazard Zone that includes moderately hazardous uses like:
- Specific agricultural practices;
- Commercial activities such as outdoor theatres;
- Managed or supplemented natural habitats;• Migratory waterfowl refuges;
- Feeding stations;
- Designated mammal refuges;
- Sewage lagoons;
- Manure piles;
- Food waste from restaurants and picnic areas; and
- Fresh tilled or plowed soil.
Priority Birds for Mitigation
Manitoba is home to three migration corridors: the Central Flyway, the Mississippi Flyway, and the Atlantic Flyway. Migration corridors are routes taken by birds to get from their winter feeding grounds to their summer breading grounds and back. With over 300 different bird species travelling the three migration corridors in Manitoba, YWG gets a lot of feathered visitors, but four types in particular pose the greatest risk:
- Canada Geese;
- Mallard Ducks;
- Gulls; and,
These birds are attracted to the habitat in and around YWG, and the opportunities that the landscape provides them. Their larger size and flying patterns increase the risk of a wildlife strike and the associated damage they can inflict on aircraft.
Mammals of Priority for YWG Mitigation
Although mammal strikes are not as common as bird strikes, they can inflict greater damage to aircraft because of their generally larger size. The mammal species of most concern at YWG is the White-tailed deer. White-tailed deer are responsible for nearly 70% of all mammal aircraft strikes in North America. They are attracted to the airport habitat due to the ample food sources available. With the lack of a natural predator within city limits, White-tailed deer have large population growth potential, which only increases the risk of an aircraft strike.
YWG has perimeter security fencing which obstructs the deer’s access to airport lands. However, on rare occasions, deer have found their way onto the property.
What You Can Do
Winnipeg Airports Authority maintains a comprehensive Wildlife Management Plan which includes active and passive control measures to manage wildlife on airport lands. Land owners and community members in areas surrounding the airport can also help by controlling wildlife on their property.
Farmers with property located within the 8 km Hazard Zone can reduce the risk of a wildlife strike by implementing simple strategies to make their farmland less attractive to birds. Simple measures like scare cannons, scarecrows and shell crackers can be used, all of which are available from Manitoba Conservation offices or from the Scare Cannon Depots located throughout the Province. Also, farmers can make their farmland less attractive to birds by:
- Planting faster maturing varieties of grain;
- Straight-combining cereal grains, whenever possible, rather than swathing;
- Combing at a slightly higher moisture content and then drying the grain; and
- Implementing a crop rotation that includes crops less attractive to birds
For community members with property near the airport, a variety of initiatives can be taken to eliminate or significantly reduce the number of birds such as:
- Reducing habitat that is attractive to birds. This may mean reducing water sources, incorporating different plant species into landscape design, like native grasses, wildflowers, and low shrubs, as well as reducing perching and nesting sites;
- Reducing potential food sources, such as: worms, rodents, and garbage; and
- Not feeding birds, as this may create a new behaviour and new habitat.
Reducing the risk of a wildlife strike will not only help decrease the risk to airplanes and passengers, it will also help community members lessen the chance of property damage. By following these tips, community members can help reduce deer populations around the airport and reduce the associated risk:
- Wild animals are dangerous. By feeding wild animals, you may be conditioning them to expect food from people. Deer that lose their natural tendency to avoid people can become a significant threat;
- Deer can attract predators such as coyotes and wolves. This would increase safety concerns and risk to people and pets, and increase the probability of these other mammals visiting YWG;
- When deer are attracted to homes or farms, the risk for vehicle collisions increases. This can result in numerous deer fatalities, expensive vehicle repairs and human injury;
- If you provide deer with food that is not part of their natural diet, they may also feed on your neighbours flowers, trees, and shrubs or on farmers' hay bales. Also, feeding deer can disrupt their digestive system which is designed to adapt slowly to changes in the seasons and withstand periods of low food availability. By feeding deer with food that is not part of their natural diet, deer can experience serious health issues and even death; and
- Feeding deer will also cause them to congregate at the food source you provide them. Deer do not naturally congregate in groups, so when they do, there is an increased risk of transmitting diseases such as bovine tuberculosis, chronic wasting disease, brucellosis and parasites to one another.
Winnipeg Airports Authority’s Wildlife Management Plan Goal
Winnipeg Airports Authority’s goal is to achieve an airport environment in which the risk associated with the interference of wildlife on aircraft operations is minimized. Strategies within this program will be continually re-evaluated to reflect evolving industry best management practices and changes in wildlife populations that directly or indirectly represent a risk to airport operations.
For additional information on the YWG Wildlife Management Plan, please visit our website at: http://www.waa.ca/waa/environment/wildlife
TP 13549 Sharing the Skies
Transport Canada Safety Above All - A Coordinated Approach to Airport Vicinity Wildlife Management
TP 1247 and Use in the Vicinity of Airports
MB Conservation Don't Feed the Deer brochure
Environment Canada – Canadian Wildlife Services - Handbook for Cackling and Canada Geese